Have Courage, My Child!

“Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you’re scared to death.” – Harold Wilson

My son and I had this discussion recently. He is a fan of superheroes. Superheroes are brave. He isn’t always brave so he can’t be a superhero. Or so goes preschool logic.

Well, I pointed out that was why superheroes wear masks…so no one can see that they are really scared underneath. We talked about how bravery is doing something you know is right even when you are frightened. He grinned and said that he understood. We will see.

I think I was in junior high when this clicked for me, that the concept of faking bravery was not something to be ashamed of. I wonder now if this was early or very late for that sort of epiphany since I am here now discussing it with my four year old.

Some people differentiate physical courage (sliding down the tall slide) from moral courage (standing up for what is right even if it is uncomfortable or unpopular). I had not really thought much about this until my discussion with my kiddo.

The first thought that I had was that the two go together. But no, I know plenty of brave jerks. So then I thought which would I rather my son have, moral or physical courage? The “right” answer is moral courage, isn’t it? Truthfully, if he could only have one, part of me wants the physical courage for him. That is not something that is easy to teach. But I can teach you morals and by the same token perhaps some degree of moral courage, through consequences.

Even deeper, though, if I were to be honest, I want my son to survive and to win. Moral courage sometimes ends up with you dead or imprisoned. It has the uncomfortable tendency to make you unpopular and to hold you back.

But then I thought more about my statement to my son, that “bravery is doing something you know is right even when you are frightened.” I guess I want moral courage for him after all. Silly me.


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